More students are homeless across Tri-Cities

More students are homeless across Tri-Cities »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Every day, roughly 800 students right here in the Tri-Cities don't go home after school. They don't have a place to go. Whether they ran away or their parents are homeless, the number of homeless in our schools continues to grow. KEPR looked at what's being done to make things better for the kids.

More kids than you'd expect don't have the luxury of waking up at home and heading to school.

"Think about spending the night in a hotel, not in your own bed, and think about how disoriented you are. Think about sleeping out on the ground in a tent," said Tri-City Union Gospel Mission's Director of Women and Children's Ministries, Chariss Warner.

It's a reality for almost 800 students right here in the Tri-Cities. Chariss Warner sees the problem of teen homelessness firsthand.

"They would grab the backpacks, and they would hold onto them. They would wear them in front of them because they wanted to make sure their school supplies were safe and that nobody would take them," she said.

The numbers break down by district. In recent years, Kennewick reported about 300 homeless students each school year. Richland reported about 100. Pasco reported almost 400 last year. A spike from just over 200 the year before.

"I look at those numbers and I know there's a lot more out there that are not saying it. And it's because of the shame and the stigma with it," said Warner.

Jack Anderson is the Federal Programs Director for the Kennewick School District. He helps find resources for these students to succeed, despite their circumstances.

"When you're worried about food, you're worried about clothing, you're worried about a roof over your head, school is secondary," he said.

The Kennewick School District says it works hard to help these students. Federal programs can help cover clothing expenses, and students can be bussed from out of the district.

"We want to provide an opportunity to keep those kids in school, provide meals in school. We want them to have a reason to come to school on a daily basis," said Anderson.

"It's not a crime to be homeless. It is an issue that we need to deal with," said Warner.

KEPR learned the number of homeless students is expected to go up in the next month as migrant families move to town for spring.